Friday, June 02, 2006

Women's Health News...

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is bad for babies:

Researchers from the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) analysed the outcome of 28,373 who gave birth to a single baby between 2001 and 2003 at 28 hospitals in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

Three-quarters of these women had had genital mutilation to varying degrees.

Compared to non-mutilated women, those who had undergone mutilation were up to 31 percent likelier to have a caesarean delivery, 66 percent likelier to have a baby that needed resuscitation and 55 percent likelier to have a child who died before or after birth.

In the countries that were monitored, the national rate of perinatal death ranges between four and six per 100 deliveries. But among the mutilated women, this rose to five and seven deaths per hundred.

"FGM (female genital mutilation) is estimated to lead to an extra one or two perinatal deaths per 100 deliveries," the study said.

Mutilated women were also likelier to suffer from haemorrhage during delivery, need surgery to enlarge the vagina and require an extended hospital stay to recover from childbirth.

The sarcastic part of me wants to note that this may make FGM rarer, given that the demonstrated harm is to the babies rather than their carriers. The nonsarcastic part slaps the sarcastic part and reminds it to take more vitamins.

In Pakistan, a new movement tries to stop honor killings, the practice of family members killing female relatives who are suspected of immoral behavior:

Ayesha Baloch was dragged to a field, her brother-in-law held the 18-year-old down, her husband sat astride her legs and slit her upper lip and nostril with a knife.

They call such assaults on women a matter of "honor" in some Pakistani communities, but for the majority it is a source of national shame.

Married less than two months ago in Pakistan's central district of Dera Ghazi Khan, Baloch was accused of having sexual relations with another man before marriage.

"First they tortured me and beat me. I started screaming. Akbar then caught my hands and pulled me to the ground. Essa sat on my legs and cut my nose and lips," Baloch mumbled through her bandages at hospital in the city of Multan.

"I was bleeding and started screaming after they fled on a motorcycle. People heard me and rescued me and took me to my mother's home."

At least she wasn't killed.

More than 1,000 women are slain by their husbands or relatives, and that is just the reported, not actual, number of "honor killings" in Pakistan each year.

Many killings are planned rather than done in rage, and the motive often has more to do with money or settling scores.

You may remember the case of Mukhtaran Mai whom the local tribal authorities ordered gang-raped as a punishment for her brother's supposed relations with a woman. She has become an icon in Pakistan and elsewhere for her refusal to be cowed by her rape and for her acts of donating the money she was awarded to the construction of schools for girls. She believes that honor killings will not stop until women are educated, and she may have a point, because educated women have more options and more ways of escaping horrible situations. But ultimately Pakistan will have to address the devaluing of women in general except in the context of their fertility and family roles.